Kelly signs education budget and policy bundle, asks Legislature to fully fund special education

By: - May 16, 2022 4:00 pm

Gov. Laura Kelly signed Monday a bill making several policy changes and providing more than $6 billion for K-12 education – but without a long-sought funding boost for special education. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed Monday a bill providing more than $6 billion for K-12 education and making several policy changes, including a controversial provision allowing students to openly transfer to districts around Kansas.

House Bill 2567 fully funds public education, according to the Gannon school finance settlement, Kelly noted in signing the bill. The Democratic governor also said the measure would provide significant investments in mental health, safety and other educational initiatives. 

“I am pleased to be able to uphold my commitment to fully fund our public schools,” Kelly said. “Providing schools with the funding and resources they need will create lifelong learners, which are the foundation of our state’s strong workforce and future economic growth.”

Before Kelly signed the bill, House members approved it 75 to 45, as did the Senate by a vote of 24 to 14.

Absent from the law, which packages more than a dozen policy provisions, is an additional $150 million for special education services in Kansas sought by school administrators and families alike. Some groups have called on Kelly to veto the bill in hopes it would lead legislators to reconsider this point.

Recent revenue projections give Kansas more than a $3 billion surplus, and as such many stakeholders argue the state can afford to fund the excess costs. Some GOP legislators have argued the state does meet the 92% threshold according to “raw numbers” and that these concerns are overblown.

But Kansas State Department of Education estimates suggest that without adjustment, special education would be funded at 76%. Based on those same calculations, Kansas has not reached 92% since 2010.

Kelly recommended an additional $30 million to increase special education services in April.

“Republicans and Democrats agree funds for special education are vital for our schools to provide quality instruction to special education students,” Kelly said. “I call on the legislature to swiftly appropriate these funds when they return on May 23rd.”

Kelly also urged legislators to review the provision requiring school districts to set policies allowing enrollment of out-of-district students.

Under that section of the law, districts would need to determine a capacity level for each grade and school building and, if under that number, would be required to allow students to transfer in. If demand exceeds the number of empty seats, a lottery would be held.

The “school choice” measure allowing open enrollment is another in a series of similar bills allowing students easier routes to better-performing public schools and private institutions. 

“Before taking effect during the 2024-2025 school year, the Legislature must work with educators and administrators to make the necessary modifications to ensure that elected school board members maintain local control,” Kelly said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.